How to find the right summer programs for your college-bound teen in 4 easy steps

The summer is a special time to continue learning and growing and college-bound teens can take advantage of numerous summer programs. The activities resume for college bound teens who get into their top choice colleges often include meaningful summer experiences. 

In addition to internships, creative projects, and reading in the summer, there are a number of summer programs for students whether they are in grade 9, 10 or 11. However, the right summer program can take time to research and apply.

Here are 4 easy steps to get started with finding the right summer program!

1. Set a Goal

A good way to start with thinking about how to find the best summer program for your college bound teen is starting with a goal. Your teen should set 1-2 goals for the summer, as it will help them to be intentional in considering the best use of their talents and time. Examples of summer goals may include:

  • Meet new friends from around the world
  • Read 5 new books on topics that interest me
  • Take a course not offered at school
  • Learn more about a career in ___?___
  • Get more community service hours
  • Experience living away from home (when and where residential programs are available)
  • . . . . (you name it)

2. Use this guide for summer program criteria

Each year, I encourage my students to apply to 1-2 summer programs. The past couple years, there have been many great virtual summer programs available. This is the guide that I use to recommend programs that can help teens consider the many options available to them once they have a goal in mind:

  • Rising 10th – Explore a new topic
  • Rising 11th – Discover more about a field of study or career interest
  • Rising 12th – Connect with colleges (perhaps consider a summer campus visit as well, where available)

3. Do a narrow Google search

There is no shortage of things to do and programs to pursue. Searching online for a summer program can feel overwhelming and tedious. I suggest that your teen’s internet search for summer programs is very specific. For example, if your teen is interested in pre-engineering and enjoys math, I would suggest using these terms and clicking the search button

“engineering math summer high school programs”

Within seconds, I got over 19,000 results using these search terms term and even better, at the bottom of the first page there are more related search terms to refine the list.

One thing I will add about the summer after 11th grade is that it is not necessary to attend a summer program at a college of interest. Some summer programs may be held on a college campus but are not affiliated with the university, especially not the admissions offices!

4. Determine if the program is worth applying

If the summer program does not require any documents from the student, then I would caution you against applying. The summer programs that I recommend for my students typically require transcript, teacher recommendations, test scores, and essays. The summer program application is, in effect, a mini-college application, which is good experience for your teen and their recommenders.

What is your teen doing this summer? Which summer programs did you find? Please post in comments below.

4 Top Tips to Make The Most of Ninth Grade

Ninth Grade

Ninth grade is a very big deal! It’s a transitional year that can set the tone for the rest of high school and beyond.

While parents may be tempted to “back off” in terms of involvement, it’s really the time to step up your engagement. Granted, your engagement may not be as hands-on as helping in the classroom, your assistance with guiding your teen to make the most of high school is important.

Here are 4 key tips to help your teen navigate ninth grade successfully and launch into a wonderful high school experience:

Practice good organizational and study skills. These are foundational skills that your teen will continue to rely upon each and every year.

Although courses may be a bit more challenging in ninth grade, they will get even more challenging for 10th, 11th and 12th Grade. So ninth grade is a great time to start practicing those good organizational and study skills. If your teen’s skills are weak in these areas, then 9th grade is an ideal time to figure out what works. There are any number of books and/or digital tools/apps that your teen can use to develop these skills.

Get involved with only one or two activities at school. During 9th grade, there’ll be so many new things happening. . . new teachers. . . perhaps new friend groups, and more. It will be all too easy to participate in the same activities as friends. Rather than follow the crown, I would suggest that your teen figures out their own you and focus on participating in only one or two clubs (including sports). Getting involved in too many activities at once may add too much undue stress and slow down their adjustment to high school.

Map courses forward. Courses taken in 9th grade play a role in the course selection for the remainder of high school. So, rather than considering 9th grade only, you can determine the core courses for 10th 11th and 12th grade as well (includes foreign language). This can help your teen see where there may be gaps in their course schedule and plan ahead for creative ways to fill any gaps.

Be intentional about summer. Gone are the days of only “hanging out” in the summer. Having fun and going on family vacations are important. However, there are typically many more other weeks for participating in a summer program, interning, reading several books, even focusing on a creative project. Whatever it is your teen does during the summer, be intentional about it, i.e. have a reason for participating!

Check out my 9th-grade roadmap for more timely tips to navigate each month of this year! (Choose “9th Grade” with the blue button here on this page.)

Preparing for College in the Ninth Grade

9th graders preparing for college early

I have a critical question for high school freshmen: have you started preparing for college life yet?

For ninth graders, college can feel like a lifetime away—many freshmen will not only say they haven’t started preparing for college, but they also thought it was too early to do so!

But we all know life moves fast. Before we know it, high school freshmen become college freshmen.

When the time between ninth grade and college is utilized wisely, we see increased admission rates and a smoother transition to college life.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled five important tips to help ninth graders prepare for college.

I’ve previously shared tips for helping ninth graders get into the best college and what parents should know about getting their ninth grader ready for college.

With these tips, students will not only help themselves get admitted but also make sure they’re prepared for what life is like once they’re in college.

1. Learn a new language.

Ninth grade is an excellent time to start learning a new language.

That way, you’ll have four years of foreign language experience, which many Ivy League or Ivy-equivalent institutions expect.

Foreign language mastery is not only a way to help boost your chances of getting into the college of your choice, but for many schools, it’s a requirement.

Some other schools only expect two or three years of foreign language experience, but starting in grade nine is never a bad idea!

2. Get involved in your school community.

Involvement in your highschool community not only looks great on college applications, but it can also prepare students for college life and being involved in that community.

Find ways to immerse yourself in the school communities that interest you—there’s no need to do activities just because you think they’ll look good on your application.

Instead, you can find activities, groups, or clubs that excite you, and accomplish two goals at once—gaining experience and having fun!

3. Establish good relationships with adults.

Ninth graders should get to know their teachers, guidance counselors, and other adult leaders in their lives.

This is beneficial for two reasons.

  1. When ninth graders begin to establish these relationships early, they’ll feel more comfortable asking for recommendation letters later on in high school, and the recommendation will be well-informed.
  2. It helps students prepare for dealing with professors and other adults they’ll encounter during their college experience.

4. Read every day.

We all know that college will come with a lot of reading, as does high school.

To prevent a rude awakening when you start college, begin to read every day in ninth grade for at least half an hour if possible.

Not only will this help prepare you for all the reading you’ll do in college, but it will help you excel on the reading portions of exams.

5. Learn when to ask for help.

During the high school and college years, there are bound to be times when you could use some help with school and life.

Many students struggle not only with asking for help but knowing when to do so.

When they were younger, your child needed help with things like tying their shoes or getting dressed.

As they get older, they’ll need help with more complex issues or problems, including education guidance.

In some cases, a parent might not be the right place to get this help, which is why your child should learn to reach out for the appropriate support when they need it.

Encourage your ninth-grader to reach out for help, whether it’s with academics or other aspects of their lives.

Learning how and when to ask for help is an essential personal development skill that all students can benefit from. The sooner this skill starts to be developed, the better.

Of course, ninth graders are still kids, and their constant focus doesn’t need to be on preparing for college. But a little bit of work in ninth grade can ultimately make the rest of high school and the start of college go as well as possible!

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing for college and the college application process, you’ll want to check out these articles too:

7 Ways to Support Your Child During the College Application Process
Get In and Get Money: 5 Tips for College-Bound Juniors
The 5 Key Things Students Should Do The Summer Before Senior Year

The 5 Key Things Students Should Do The Summer Before Senior Year

a student surrounded by flowers preparing for senior year

Ahhh, summer vacation. It’s finally here. You’ve waited all year for a break from high school so you can sleep in, enjoy the sunshine, relax, and kick up your feet.

But for students who are entering their senior year of high school this fall, these aren’t the only things you should be focused on.

The summer before senior year is a critical time for college prep.

As important as it is to enjoy yourself this summer, there are things you should be doing to make sure your transition to college goes as smoothly as possible!

Dedicating just a bit of your summer vacation to preparing for senior year and beyond will pay off in the months to come.

Here are 5 key things you should be doing the summer before senior year.

1. Put the finishing touches on your college list.

If you haven’t finalized the list of colleges you want to apply to, summer is an excellent time to start narrowing it down.

When you’re creating your list of colleges, you’ll want to compare what they have to offer in relation to what you’re hoping to get out of your college experience.

Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Academic fit
  • Social fit
  • Vocational fit
  • Financial fit

(You can learn more about choosing a college that’s the right fit here.)

Begin by creating a big list of colleges (maybe 15-20) and categorize each of those schools by your likelihood of being admitted:

  • ‘Safety schools’ are schools you have a higher-than likely chance of being admitted to because your standardized test scores and high school grades are higher than the average for admitted students. But they might not have all the things you want in a college.
  • ‘Likelies’ or ‘matches’ are schools that you have a fair chance of being accepted to (maybe 40-60%) and they have most of what you’re looking for.
  • ‘Reaches’ are schools that will be more challenging and competitive to be accepted into. Often, these schools check off all the boxes for what you’re looking for in a college experience.

Because the likelihood of being admitted to a reach school is lower than that of a safety or match school, you don’t want to include only reach schools on your list—but that doesn’t mean they should be excluded!

Focus on having the highest number of match schools on your list, but include reach and safety schools, too.

2. Consider starting your campus visits.

When students ask about the best time to visit college campuses, there isn’t one right answer.

If you visit campuses during the summer, you risk not getting a full taste of what campus life would be like during the academic year.

But for parents who can’t make college visits work during the rest of the year, summer college campus visits can be a great choice.

Senior year is a notoriously busy time in a student’s life, and adding college visits to that can be next to impossible in some cases.

If a summer visit to a college campus is the only time that will work for you and your parents, go for it!

Just be sure to plan your visit weeks in advance.

Many colleges have summer visit schedules, and you can choose between:

  • Individual visits
  • Open houses
  • Self-guided tours

Depending on what the college has to offer, you can choose what’s right for you and what visit will give you the best idea of what life at that college would be like for you.

3. Set goals for the school year.

I advise students to set 3-5 foundational goals for each school year.

These goals help you determine your purpose, stay motivated, be accountable, believe in yourself, and know when to ask for help if you need it.

You can use your list of goals to check in on your progress as your senior year progresses.

What are some goals to include on my list?

Here are a few examples of goals you might want to add to your list:

  • Maintain a _____ GPA.
  • Meet with a teacher after school each week.
  • Increase volunteer hours at _________________ by 1 hour per week.
  • Start a ___________ club at my community center.
  • Complete art portfolio with __ drawings by end of semester.

4. Pursue your passions and keep building your college resume.

The summer before senior year is also a time to focus on things that are productive, interesting, and challenging.

You don’t need to think about school 24/7, and in fact, I’d strongly advise students NOT do this!

Yes, you should put some work into preparing for college, but you also need to take advantage of the time off school to pursue your passions.

After all, pursuing your passions is a great way to build your college resume!

Maybe you’re passionate about working with children. Take time in the summer before senior year to mentor or tutor younger students.

Or if travel is your passion, consider volunteering abroad where you are not only helping others, but getting life experience and resume material at the same time.

Maybe you’re not sure of what your passion is yet. The summer before senior year is a great time to find out! And how do you do that?

By trying new things!

Attempting new tasks or activities takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you grow as a person. At the same time, you’re likely to meet interesting people and learn something new.

5. Begin drafting your college essay…at the end of summer!

As you’ve seen, the summer before senior year is a time to pursue your passions and build your college resume. The experiences you’re bound to have over the summer could prove life-changing, and would make great material for your college essays.  

Waiting until the end of summer to begin drafting your college essays will allow you to give this task the attention it deserves. You’ll also be able to reflect on your summer experiences when you’re writing your essay.

Preparing for college life and beyond.

All of these things help you follow or determine your passion, and by doing that, you help build your college resume and prepare yourself for the life experiences to come.

Summer is meant to be enjoyed, but if you can make the summer before senior year fun AND productive, you’ll set yourself up for more success down the road!

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.

If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss these posts either:

3 Reasons Why Taking the SAT and ACT Might be a Waste of Time and Money

How To Motivate Your Teen To Visit Colleges…and Survive Visits As a Parent

College Essay How-to: Who is someone you admire?